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brexit chaos
September 16, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was greeted by the sound of protesters booing him when he arrived in Luxembourg on Monday, and the reception he received from the country's top leaders wasn't much friendlier.

Johnson was in Luxembourg for his first face-to-face meeting with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, The Associated Press reports. With Britain scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, the two are trying to come up with a divorce agreement, but the European Commission said in a statement the meeting ended with no plan in place. Johnson has not offered any "legally operational" solutions to the so-called "backstop," which would guarantee that goods and people are able to freely cross the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.

Johnson was scheduled to attend a news conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, but refused to attend due to the rowdy anti-Brexit protesters. Bettel met with him privately, and said Johnson needs to "stop speaking and act," adding, "You can't hold their future hostage for party political gains." A no-deal Brexit could have catastrophic economic repercussions, but Johnson is adamant that Britain will leave the EU by Halloween, with or without a deal.

An EU summit will be held in mid-October, and hopes are high that a deal will be reached then. Johnson suspended Parliament until Oct. 14, in order to give himself distance from lawmakers who are trying to block a no-deal Brexit, and on Tuesday, Britain's Supreme Court will mull whether that decision was lawful. Catherine Garcia

September 11, 2019

Things just keep getting worse for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

After having already lost his first six parliamentary votes, he faced another defeat Wednesday, this time in the judiciary realm. Senior Scottish judges unanimously ruled that Johnson's suspension of Parliament earlier this month was unlawful on the basis that he misled Queen Elizabeth II, David Allen Green reports for The Financial Times. Green adds that the ruling that Johnson acted in "bad faith" was a "remarkable and unprecedented judgment" — indeed, this is reportedly the first time a court has found a prime minister to have misled the British Crown.

The Scottish court's decision differs from a previous one made by the High Court in London, which ruled that it could not review the legality of the suspension since it was a political matter. But Scotland has its own system of laws, and Green notes that Scottish judges have a lot more leeway when it comes to parliamentary prorogation. The U.K.'s Supreme Court will convene next week in London to hear appeals from both the Scottish and High court cases in an attempt to create one, overarching decision. Read more from David Allen Green at The Financial Times and on Twitter. Tim O'Donnell

September 11, 2019

A Scottish appeals court, the Court of Sessions, ruled Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson violated Britain's constitution when he prorogued, or suspended, Parliament until Oct. 14. The three-judge panel, led by Lord Carloway, Scotland's senior-most judge, overturns a lower court ruling that courts can't interfere with political decision by the prime minister. But the appellate court did not immediately overturn Johnson's order, allowing the U.K. Supreme Court to make the final decision in an emergency session called for Sept. 17. It did, however, inject more chaos into an already madcap Brexit fight.

The Scottish judges, siding with 75 opposition members of Parliament and peers, ruled that Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament violated the constitution because it sought to quash debate in the run-up to the Oct. 31 deadline for Britain to seal a divorce deal with the European Union. Parliament's suspension took effect early Tuesday, after lawmakers had passed a law requiring Johnson to seek an extension of the Oct. 31 deadline if no EU exit deal was in place. A court in England sided with Johnson, and the Supreme Court will weigh both rulings as well as a third case out of Northern Ireland.

"I have never been able to contemplate the possibility that the law could be that our sovereign Parliament might be treated as an inconvenience by the prime minister," said Jolyon Maugham, an attorney who filed the Scottish case. "I am pleased that Scotland's highest court agrees." Peter Weber

September 9, 2019

Britain's Parliament has once again rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's call for early elections, giving him his second major defeat in a week.

The vote took place early Tuesday morning, a few hours after a law went into effect blocking Johnson from going through with a no-deal Brexit. Right now, the deadline to leave the European Union is Oct. 31, and under the new law, if Johnson is unable to reach a divorce deal by Oct. 19, he must request an extension.

Johnson will attend a critical EU summit on Oct. 17. After Tuesday's vote, he said the government "will press on with negotiating a deal, while preparing to leave without one," adding that "no matter how many devices this parliament invents to tie my hands, I will strive to get an agreement in the national interest. ... This government will not delay Brexit any further."

Parliament will now be suspended until Oct. 14. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said his side is "keen" to hold elections, but "we are not prepared to risk inflicting the disaster of no-deal on our communities." Johnson wants early elections because he lost his legislative majority last week, after a Conservative MP defected to another party and he ejected more than a dozen others, as he was angry that they supported the opposition.

The drama didn't start in the wee hours of Tuesday morning — on Monday, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow surprised everyone when he announced he is stepping down by Oct. 31. He's served as speaker for 10 years, and called it the "greatest honor and privilege." Catherine Garcia

September 9, 2019

Parliament might soon get a bit more dis-orderly.

The United Kingdom's House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announced Monday he will step down from his post by Oct. 31, the current Brexit deadline, if no general election is called before then. In the unlikely scenario that there election before Oct. 31, Bercow will step down then. The "emotional" decision took members by surprise, Bloomberg reports.

Bercow said his 10 years serving as speaker was the "greatest honor and privilege." A former Conservative who gave Brexit opponents an opportunity to try to prevent a no-deal departure, Bercow reportedly received a standing ovation from the Labour benches after making the announcement, though most Conservatives remained seated.

While he received a number of tributes following the announcement, Bercow's timing did garner some criticism. "Whatever people's view of him, we are in a very unstable situation and in desperate need of stability at the moment," former cabinet minister Rory Stewart said. "With an unwritten constitution the whole thing is so dependent on personality at the moment." Bloomberg reports the speaker's departure could be a blow for MPs working to stop a no-deal Brexit, as he was the authority who made time for them to take action.

One thing is for certain, though — Parliament will be less entertaining without Bercow's theatrics, particularly his penchant for yelling "order" when dueling MPs became too rowdy. Tim O'Donnell

September 9, 2019

Britain's cross-party bill seeking to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from crashing Britain out of the European Union without an exit deal is expected to become law Monday, following a final vote in the House of Commons and royal assent. The bill requires Johnson to submit a Parliament-drafted letter seeking a three-month Brexit extension if he hasn't negotiated a Parliament-approved withdrawal agreement by mid-October. If you need a refresher of what happened last week, BBC News has a 5-minute explainer.

Johnson's Cabinet huddled on Sunday to come up with ways to "sabotage" the legislation, The Daily Telegraph reports, and they hatched two plans: Send a second letter alongside the mandated one to clarify to the EU that Johnson's government doesn't really want an extension; and try to convince an EU member state to veto the request. The latter plan seems more promising — two EU officials have already suggested they are frustrated enough by Britain's Brexit chaos to consider saying no to an extension. The first plan is likely illegal.

"To send the letter and then try and neutralize it seems to me to be plainly a breach of the act," Lord Sumption, a former judge of the U.K.'s Supreme Court, told BBC Radio 4. Other legal experts concurred.

The House of Commons will also vote Monday on Johnson's call for snap elections — and once again, lawmakers are expected to reject the call. That will likely be Parliament's last action before it is prorogued (suspended) for a month, at Johnson's order. Meanwhile, a member of Johnson's Cabinet, Amber Rudd, resigned over the weekend, saying there's "very little evidence" the government is even trying to get a new Brexit deal and is instead spending up to 90 percent of its time planning for a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31. Peter Weber

September 7, 2019

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is running out of options, The Guardian reports.

Earlier this week Johnson said he'd "rather be dead than ask for another Brexit delay," despite the fact that Parliament passed a bill to prevent a no-deal departure Friday. "We're in quite extraordinary territory when the prime minister says he is above the law," Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

Corbyn added that the best thing the government could do is make sure Johnson abides by Parliament's bill — which is set to become law Monday — ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline. Politics aside, that might be the only course of action Johnson has if he wants to remain in office, legal experts suggested. In fact, if Johnson goes rogue, he could even technically wind up facing prison time.

"A refusal in the face of that would amount to contempt of court, which could find that person in prison," Lord Kenneth Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said. "He won't get any cooperation, apart from the fanatics around him."

Of course, there is another option for Johnson. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

September 5, 2019

It has not been a great week for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who suffered a string of big losses in Parliament. He suffered another one on Thursday morning when his brother, fellow Conservative member of Parliament Jo Johnson announced he's quitting, saying he's been "torn between family loyalty and the national interest."

If there was sympathy for Boris Johnson, it wasn't immediately evident on Twitter.

A former journalist like his brother, Jo Johnson's "tweet today is loaded with ambiguity," The Guardian notes. He appears to be saying "he can no longer support the government's policies," though he voted with the government on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jo Johnson was promoted to his brother's Cabinet "even though he voted remain in 2010 and he is much more pro-European than his brother," The Guardian adds. "It is hard to believe that he is comfortable about the idea of a no-deal Brexit, although he has not questioned his brother's strategy in public."

Also, adds British journalist Robert Peston, Jo Johnson "told colleagues how upset he was at purging of Tory MPs ... to whom he is closer politically in many ways than to his brother, especially on Brexit." Peter Weber

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